x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

New push to require rear seat belts

Road safety campaigners are calling for laws to force drivers and passengers to buckle up in every seat of the car.

ABU DHABI // Road safety campaigners are calling for laws to force drivers and passengers to buckle up in every seat of the car, with more vigorous enforcement for those who flout the rules. The calls come after a study of road accidents in Al Ain found that passengers in the rear were just as likely to be seriously injured in an accident as those in the front.

The finding dispels a common belief that vehicle occupants are better protected in the back of a car. "This study specifically stresses the need to enforce the law for the front seat belts, and proves the case that the use of seat belts for back-seat passengers should also be obligatory," said Dr Fikri Abu-Zidan, the professor of surgery at UAE University and one of the study's authors. "All small children inside the car should be in a special child seat. If a car stops suddenly, patients in the back will be thrown forward and may even hit the front window."

The researchers also called for laws to force cyclists to wear helmets, and for motorcyclists to wear high-visibility helmets, boots and other protective clothing. Drivers and front-seat passengers have been required since 1999 to buckle up, and children under 10 years of age may not ride in the front of the car. However, the law is widely ignored, and there is no requirement for back-seat passengers to wear restraints or for children to be in safety seats.

In Abu Dhabi, only 11 per cent of Emiratis and 44 per cent of expatriates wear seat belts, according to the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi. Bernadette Bhacker, a Dubai-based British lawyer and director of Al Mustadaama, which developed Oman's Safe and Sound campaign, said a federal law was part of the solution but that legislation would be meaningless without education and enforcement. "Tomorrow the UAE could legislate and say everyone in the car has to be in an appropriate restraint, but before you introduce legislation you have to educate people as for the need for the legislation," she said.

Last November, the National Transport Authority said the Government was considering a federal child safety seat law. The authority declined to comment yesterday.